Parents: Common Core is 'Hijacking Our Kids'

Smithtown parents speak out against Common Core, state assessments before Board of Education on Tuesday night.

Smithtown school district parents tore apart the controversial Common Core curriculum and state assessments, blaming it for creating students fear and avoid schoolwork. 

Amy Hennig, a Smithtown parent of two students, said since the Common Core math has been implemented in Smithtown School District her daughter has started complaining of stomach aches, as stress over the new learning system has manifested in physical symptoms. 

"They are really hijacking our children. Who said they would be more ready for college based on this theory? Who said this is the way to do it?," Hennig asked. 

Parents questioned the district's decisions on implementing Common Core, including adopting the state's new math curriculum, putting aside previously purchased textbook and workbooks at the Board of Education meeting on Tuesday night.
"We were told at Back-to-School night, 'We are flying a plane while we are building it.'," said Lillian Hope. "How dare you use our kids as guinea pigs." 

Hope, a parent of second-grade and sixth-grade boys, said the new common core curriculum fails is frustrating to students and parents, leaving children behind as it fails to recognize each student has a different learning style and ability.

"Common Core does not benefit anyone not students, not teachers, not parents. Students are not one size fit all. Our kids are not common nor or your teachers, they are individual with different strength and weaknesses," Hope said. "It's sad to see a child who used to love school not wanting to go." 

Another mother complained when her sixth-grade daughter had difficulty completing a homework assessment, even her 10th-grade honor student and husband, who works in field with mathematical figures, found the questions intentionally misleading.

Assistant Superintendent Jennifer Bradshaw, Smithtown's director of curriculum, acknowledged the school district recognizes it is in a difficult transition time and there are problems with the new math curriculum. 

"Yes your concerns are heard, they are valid and we are responding to them as quickly as we can," Bradshaw said. 

New supplemental materials are being produced by the district to help make the Common Core math curriculum "more palatable" to children, parents and teachers, according to Bradshaw. 

Pam Farino, a Smithtown parent, expressed concerns that Smithtown is already falling behind with only 70 percent of students testing as college or career ready in last spring's assessments, compared to neighboring school district Half Hollow Hills. 

Last month, Smithtown Board of Education voted unanimously to approve a resolution that challenges New York State Educational Department review its current system and the federal government to overhaul the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, better known as the "No Child Left Behind Act."

Tell us, How do you feel about the Common Core curriculum in Smithtown schools and how is it affecting your child? 

John October 13, 2013 at 05:56 PM
There are many private schools rejecting the Common Core. They are NOT "rigorous", they do not lead kids to take Pre-Calculus and Calculus in high school, the Common Core uses CONSTRUCTIVISM as the tool for teaching. CONSTRUCTIVISM is pedagogically unsound, yet progressives have pushed it into EVERY teaching paradigm in our schools. CONSTRUCTIVISM says "Students learn through discovery." which actually is sometimes true BUT not all the time. Sometimes, students can discover, but most of the time they need to know, especially in the early grades BEFORE they can discover. This method of teaching, is like asking a 5 year old to sit infront of a piano and "discover" how to play. NONSENSE, it takes years and years of training before a Mozart is born. PLEASE, Smithtown, address the issue, it's CONSTRUCTIVISM.
Marion Knott October 13, 2013 at 06:15 PM
I agree with what you are saying though I wouldn't call them progressives since it's a term in my eyes like liberal and conservative. Words that demand a reaction. My husband and I were privleged to hear and see Piaget whose philosophy is what we admired. The Uncommon Core is like a disease spreading throughout our educational system while the teachers can't figure it out and the kids are suffering and the parents are bewildered. So far the publishing companies are counting up their profits. I think we will survive this as we have survived other systems. It's just sad that our kids have to be upset. It's just like kindergarten. It used to be a joke that no one can fail kdg. But come to my school and I'm sure we're not the only ones that the kids ARE failing kindergarten. My husband would be the one to address the calculus reference. I know he did something in the Math dept. when he was Supt.
JW October 13, 2013 at 07:31 PM
Marion, I am not sure how well we survived some of the previous educational experiments. Wasn't there some news this week about how poorly the education level of American adults compares with those of other nations? As someone with two engineering degrees, I am very concerned about a math curriculum that does not provide calc or pre-calc, if this is true about common core. It does not mesh well with all the hype we currently hear about preparing kids for STEM careers.
John October 13, 2013 at 07:49 PM
Here you go JW, tell me if you find pre-calc or calculus here for high school students. Clearly not EVERYONE can take those course in high school, but we should offer them and encourage them. See here the Math Common Core standards. Here we are dumbing down to reach the entire population. Too bad. I took algebra, trig and pre-calculus in high school, Port Washington. Now I suppose to align with the LESS rigorous standards, they will not offer these more difficult courses. http://www.corestandards.org/Math
JW October 13, 2013 at 08:13 PM
Won't the schools have the option of offering more content than what is in the common core? Or do the common core requirements use up all the available time? Way back in the day when I was in high school we were the first graduating class to get calculus in our senior year. That required the students and teachers to come in an hour early to take two math courses our Sophomore year. I doubt that would be acceptable today. I do not think public school would have done it at that time either (1970's).
John October 13, 2013 at 09:37 PM
Common Core implementation is taking a lot of resources, perhaps in the better districts, pre-calc and calculus tracking will remain, however, the algebra, trig and geometry courses necessary are watered down, so I really don't see how a school will do it.
JW October 14, 2013 at 07:03 AM
Plenty of online and homeschooling resources available for calculus if the schools drop the ball. Parents would be well advised to fill the gaps if they have kids who want STEM careers. If the watering down starts early, the supplementation should start early as well.
John October 14, 2013 at 08:39 AM
Good JW, of course you and I both agree, however, that parents shouldn't have to do this, especially with Long Island parents paying very high tax dollars for public education. Also, there are many parents who are not savvy, they are young and don't know how to support their bright children.
Marion Knott October 14, 2013 at 12:12 PM
Are you both talking about Smithtown schools or have you seen what courses are given? My grandson in New Jersey has calculus in their curriculum. What I enjoy about the two of you are you're not being nasty, hopefully just inquisitive. Just pick up the phone and call Central Office and then you'll find out what you want to know. Being young parents doesn't mean they aren't savvy. Most parents are behind their children whether they are "bright" or not "bright." Here in San Francisco I have no problem with my elementary school even though it's not in the best of neighborhoods. We are lucky in Smithtown since both High Schools are not just for the bright as it is here in San Francisco where the very bright go to one or two high schools.
Elsie October 14, 2013 at 12:40 PM
Don't know what they are talking about but ST has gone whole hog in favor of the scripted NYS version of Common Core. There are no math textbooks through 9th grade Algebra now and it's moving up to later grades. All students have to be taught from the CC script and it cannot deviate according to an email my grandson's teacher received from the higher ups when she asked about enrichment. If she wants to provide enrichment it has to be at her own expense and it has to use materials from Singapore math since that is what the curriculum is based on.
JW October 14, 2013 at 12:52 PM
Marion, my children are grown, so i have no information on what the district is doing. As a career technologist, I have concerns about the general reviews I have read of Common Core math. I also worry that there will be a lag effect. Schools may continue to offer calc and even AP calc, but lets see how kids cope with that after three years of common core math. As John pointed out, the pre reqs are likely too watered down to serve them well. I try to refrain from political polarization or nastiness. I sm just putting my thoughts out here as part of the discussion, and realize that we may not all agree but shouldn't equate disagreement with personal attack. We are collectively in a scary situation here. Teachers are dispirited by this curriculum and the associated standards and testing, parents are confused about what steps to take, and the lives and livelihoods of children hang in the balance. We pay for public education through taxes at every level, probably most significantly at the local level, but we do not have enough ability to influence standards that are being forced down from a national level. There have always been problems with public education. I had to opt out of it in the seventies, because I got no extra bandwidth as a bright student, was actually told by a math teacher to stop raising my hand and just proceed through the book at my own pace. At a private high school, a teacher always made time to teach me whatever I wanted to learn. Maybe the brighter kids should just self-school and distance learn at some point. I am very impressed by most of the homeschooled teens I have met in the last few years. Now that so many families homeschool, there is ample opportunity to socialize, so its hard to see what they are missing by opting out of public education. In that kind of scenario, it would still be worthwhile to support public education for the good of society at large. Those who can exceed the common core standards should be free to do so. Those who need extra support to meet them should get it.
JW October 14, 2013 at 12:53 PM
I must apologize! My ipad keyboard does not seem to honor my paragraph separations. I did not mean to create such a long run on post.
Marion Knott October 14, 2013 at 01:04 PM
Don't apologize. I don't understand the lady who talks about Singapore math and also the comment about enrichment. In the high school I think they have Honors Math and AP math somewhere. We have two grandchildren who are freshman and their siblings are going through the ninth grade Math with a teacher who is just as puzzled as they. My one eighth day grandchild in the South just had to opt out of her math which was somehow 9th grade math since there was confusion there. It's a new system and I bet by the time it is all figured out, we'll be on to something new. Right now parents should get their information from the Curriculum person. As a child I was always in public education as was my husband and I think we have been successful as are my children and grandchildren who graduated from the Smithtown schools. We have two grandchildren still in elementary in Three Village and they seem to be doing fine. It's great that you and others are paying attention to what your kids are learning. My husband who was Supt. in Hauppauge always had a handle on things. I seem to be rambling so I'm sorry about that.
Sticks60 October 14, 2013 at 01:32 PM
As I applude thoes who get involved with their children with school it make sure their individual needs are met I do caution you on how you do it. At some point and time growing up each of us needs to learn how to deal with the real world out there and they fit into it. I know a professional in university student services who will tell you many students coming into his institution do not have the level of maturity students had just fifteen years ago. I do have one question, why in math with have one level of instruction fits all. In reading we have students in the same class at different levels based on their ability, why don't we have that with math?
Marion Knott October 14, 2013 at 01:45 PM
You have discovered one of my husband's pet peeves. He always had grouping in math as well as reading. It's such a simple thing to do and it benefits all students.
John October 14, 2013 at 08:56 PM
Oh JW, my sister homeschooled her children. Both excelled. I was not in support of her at the time. She lives in Port Washington and I thought the school district was quite good. But her kids got a superior education. Both are beautifully cultured adults now with great careers. I tell everyone who is on the fence about their school district to homeschool. The curriculum homeschoolers use i great, among them : Saxon Math & Singapore Math. The reading programs include Sing, Spell, Read & Write. All disciplines are covered, includeg grammar, handwriting (cursive too!), writing (www.iew.com a very good program), geography, world history, American history, Science, art, art history.... and the list goes on. Those kids are educated!
E Baum October 14, 2013 at 09:14 PM
My sister was a product of "new math" back in the day. As a result of that, she stopped taking math as soon as she could. She was not alone. I fear that this new math trend is going to result in similar, if not worse outcomes as the new math. I am worried.
Marion Knott October 14, 2013 at 10:04 PM
No matter what, the kids will survive whatever system. At our age we have seen and heard all the trends in education. I worry about the health of my children and grandchildren. We are here to support them and listen to them and thank God we have them. I know I must sound simplistic. Some of our grandchildren are currently in the Smithtown disctrict, some in Ga. and some in Three Village. We and their parents are vigilant about their education. The Common Core is here and will be gone in a few years.
Sticks60 October 16, 2013 at 09:28 AM
If you look at what was said at this meeting I think it points out two opposite points of view as a community. On one hand we have a parent noting that of the 800 plus high school graduates we have every year only seventy percent are judged to be ready for either continue on with their education or become productive members of the work force. Then we have a number of parents that say the new programs put in place are too hard and the testing too intrusive. I think the question then is what type of education do we want for our children? I also noted that of all of interested parents none took the oppertunity two weeks earlier to sit with the three key administrators who are in charge of instruction to understand more about common core0. In addition they would have had the oppertunity to ask questions about the programs and add constructive comments from their unique point of view as parents. I hope we are more then a community that just complains but one that desires to learn and grow.
JW October 16, 2013 at 09:51 AM
I cannot speak for the parents in the district, but perhaps they would rather gather their information on common core from third party sources than from district administrators who are pushing a common core agenda. these parents were told by educators at back to school night that they are flying a plane while building it, as quoted in the article above. Such admissions are seriously damaging to the credibility of the educational establishment in this district. The article points to at least one answer to the question of what kind of education do we want for our students...no parent wants their kids to be a victim of an unproven educational experiment.
Elsie October 17, 2013 at 04:48 PM
Helping my grandson with homework. This is in his notes for the lesson they had today: Objective: Use place value understanding to fluently decompose to smaller units multiple times in any place using the standard subtraction algorithm, and apply the algorithm to solve word problems using tape diagrams.
Marion Knott October 17, 2013 at 06:15 PM
What grade was he in? It does sound like a foreign language to me. Did the teacher explain all those words in the classroom. I'll share this with my husband who is pretty smart but I bet that this will be beyond him. One of my kids who is an engineer is baffled by what the eighth graders are facing in class and the teacher seems just as puzzled.
Elsie October 17, 2013 at 08:00 PM
10 years old and in 5th grade.
Marion Knott October 17, 2013 at 10:08 PM
Thanks Elsie for your response. Connie said he thought that was about the age. He recognized some of the Mathematical words but it was confusing as it went on. It was probably developed by a Mathametician which unfortunately means that most people would never understand that language. We know, in this country, only about fifteen percent of the population is capable of understanding mathematical concepts, the rest of us understand by rote learning, not concepts. Compounding this problem is that the teachers, unfortunately don't understand the concept themselves and therefore can not instruct the students to properly solve the problem. Sooner or later, we might wake up and realize that we are not teaching a school full of mathematicians but are instructing the normal population that needs practical instruction that doesn't rely on high level conceptual teaching. Elsie that was the Gurus words. The spelling mistakes are all mine! When he taught he always had math groups since, like reading, not all kids are on the same level.
Sticks60 October 18, 2013 at 10:45 AM
I agree with Marion. If we are attempting to get every child ready to study calculus then we are going to have a lot of frustated students in our schools. How about we have a second tract that concentrates simpler things such as learning how to get and repay a loan, handle credit cards, understand the 1040 tax form, how to invest for one's retiremant and the hardest one how to read the town tax bill. I have done a lot of sales training in over the years that included a lot of simple math. There were times I had to review simple satistics and basic cost accounting and most were collage graduates.
Hasyayoga October 20, 2013 at 07:54 AM
Many great points here. Sticks>you hit the nail on the head! We as a society seem to be forgetting that we have to prepare our young adults to also work within the infrastructure of our society. If everyone has a Ph.D., who is going to repair roads? Build bridges? Repair our washing machines? Can you imagine if no one picked up our garbage? We would be overrun by disease in weeks...What about the techs that keep our cell phone towers in good shape, can we live without those...I don't think so...we need to prepare those adults as well. Instead, we are frustrating them with intensive math and some lose interest and some drop out. We need them to be just as productive. They are all important to a stable economy. I am not saying dumb it down, I am saying we need more vocational programs for the trades.
Sticks60 October 20, 2013 at 09:01 AM
Hasyayoga I appriciate your comments, but in addition to the people in the trades what about all the people in the business world . I asked my son when he or anyone else has use calculus in just general busines dealings, even thoes that involve tens of miliions of dollars. How many accountents need it. How many business owner, the backbone of our countries growth need it. As mentioned I thing the goal should be that all students who graduate should be able to explan the IRS from 1040, what 21% interest on a credit card means or just maybe how to read a home owners tax bill and realize over the past ten years how much our taxes have gone up while our income remines almost stagnent.
Marion Knott October 20, 2013 at 11:40 AM
Seems like Hauppauge and maybe Smithtown in years gone by had the math you describe where kids were given down to earth instruction in everyday math. Sadly, today, many districts have decided to use a program called, "Everyday Math" which is not what it sounds like. Three Village has it and so does my San Francisco schools. My grandson in New Jersey had it until the district saw the error of their ways and chose another system. Years ago (many many years ago!!) my high school had a regular academic "track" a "commercial track" and what was called the "Co Op track." The Co Op track had the students labeled A and B. One week A's attended classes at our school and worked the next week and B did the same on alternate weeks. My sister was on a partial commercial track and she ended up in later years getting her PHD and working as a professor at a prestigious university. Now I think I am rambling but at least my "aged" fingers are getting a work out.
scsddad October 22, 2013 at 09:11 AM
The problem on LI is all these school districts. If we had one school district and one BOE in Suffolk. We would be able to have specialized schools for whatever a student wants to do and also have high performing schools. We just can't handle all the needs of the different students the way school districts are set up here on Long Island
E Baum November 05, 2013 at 09:10 PM
That is something I had not considered with regard to consolidation. Interesting...


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